Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Does bibliotherapy actually work? (My two-years-on take)

When I started Tolstoy Therapy in 2012, I hadn’t yet heard of bibliotherapy. I launched the website to share my own brand of using books to feel better, and while I shared these ideas publicly, they were mostly for my own benefit. I never really thought about writing for others or having an audience.

When I did find out about bibliotherapy, it made complete sense to me. Yet putting a name to it doesn't really change much. So many of us use books as a therapeutic tool without needing to put a name to it. It’s simply one of many benefits of spending time in a good book.




If we look at some of the research, there are dozens of benefits claimed to be associated with bibliotherapy. Experts suggest that reading reduces stress levels by 67%, which most of us readers would probably agree with – it's one of our favourite ways to unwind for a reason. There are also studies suggesting we mimic the behaviour of our favourite characters, which is probably the area of research that's of most interest to me.

In my own informal, very unscientific and unqualified experience, bibliotherapy has been a great success. The books I've read have contributed so much to the huge personal changes I've undergone in the last few years, especially after I started making a more conscious effort to choose the right book for the right time.


I used books to…



As with many approaches to wellbeing, bibliotherapy needs to be accompanied by others too. In my case, these were EMDR therapy, building my confidence by travelling alonemoving away from my home village, and accepting that I was never going to be like most people. 

The latter made life a lot easier, especially in terms of overcoming my last major echoes of social anxiety. But, like many truths, it’s usually not enough just to hear them once – whether from yourself or others – and feel immediately better. You need to truly believe it. And follow a path to the point of understanding in your head. That tends to take some time. But you get there, especially when stars suddenly align and you find your courage. 

Here are some of my favourite articles I've published on bibliotherapy:


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